Article Text

Download PDFPDF

Low T cell production of TNFα and IFNγ in ankylosing spondylitis: its relation to HLA-B27 and influence of the TNF-308 gene polymorphism
  1. M Rudwaleita,
  2. S Siegerta,
  3. Z Yinb,
  4. J Eicka,
  5. A Thielb,
  6. A Radbruchb,
  7. J Sieperc,
  8. J Brauna
  1. aRheumatology, Department of Medicine, University Hospital Benjamin Franklin, Berlin, Germany, bDeutsches Rheumaforschungs- zentrum, Berlin, Germany, cUniversity Hospital Benjamin Franklin and Deutsches Rheumaforschungs- zentrum, Berlin, Germany
  1. Dr J Braun, Rheumatologie, Med Klinik IV, Universitätsklinikum Benjamin Franklin, Hindenburgdamm 30, 12200 Berlin, Germanyjbraun{at}


OBJECTIVE To test the hypothesis that ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is a T helper cell type 2 polarised disease by quantifying the T cell cytokines interferon γ (IFNγ), interleukin 4 (IL4), tumour necrosis factor α (TNFα), and IL10 at the single cell level in patients with AS in comparison with healthy HLA-B27 negative and HLA-B27 positive controls.

METHODS Peripheral blood mononuclear cells from 65 subjects (25 HLA-B27 positive patients with active AS, 18 healthy HLA-B27 positive controls, and 22 healthy HLA-B27 negative controls) were stimulated with phorbol myristate acetate/ionomycin for six hours, surface stained for CD3 and CD8, intracellularly stained for the cytokines IFNγ, TNFα, IL4, and IL10, and analysed by flow cytometry. TNFα production was related to the genotype of the TNFα promoter at the -308 and -238 polymorphisms.

RESULTS In peripheral blood the percentage of TNFα+ T cells was significantly lower in HLA-B27 positive patients with AS (median 5.1% for CD4+ T cells) than in healthy HLA-B27 negative controls (median 9.5%; p=0.008). Surprisingly, the percentage of TNFα+ T cells was also significantly lower in healthy HLA-B27 positive controls (median 7.48%) than in healthy HLA-B27 negative controls (p=0.034). Furthermore, the percentage of IFNγ+ T cells was lower in patients with AS and in healthy HLA-B27 positive controls than in healthy HLA-B27 negative controls (p=0.005 and p=0.003, respectively). The percentage of IL10+/CD8+ T cells was higher in patients with AS than in both control groups. In HLA-B27 positive subjects, TNF1/2 heterozygosity at -308 (n=6) was associated with a higher percentage of TNFα+ T cells than TNF1/1 homozygosity (n=25; median 9.97%v 5.11% for CD4+ T cells; p=0.017). In contrast, in HLA-B27 negative controls (n=18) there was no such genotype/phenotype correlation (median 9.4%v 10.6%).

CONCLUSIONS The lower T cell production of TNFα and IFNγ shown at the single cell level in HLA-B27 positive patients with AS and healthy HLA-B27 positive controls may contribute to the increased susceptibility of HLA-B27 positive subjects to develop AS. Preliminary genotype-phenotype correlations suggest that in HLA-B27 positive subjects TNF2 at -308 or a linked gene results in higher TNFα production and, therefore, might be a marker for a protective haplotype.

  • ankylosing spondylitis
  • cytokines
  • tumour necrosis factor
  • polymorphism
View Full Text

Statistics from


  • The work of Drs Braun and Sieper was supported by grants from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft.

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.